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My Narcissistic Ex-Husband

Reflections on loving and living with a Narcissist.  Let our experts guide you toward the healing power of moving on and allowing yourself some time in the spotlight.  Get advice on healing from his behavior and finding yourself again.

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I am a big believer in self-help books. I have an entire library of them that contains everything from how to diagnose a medical condition to how to fix your marriage – especially how to fix your marriage. When I was homeschooling my kids I learned that I was a visual-kinesthetic learner, I learn by reading and physically doing things. I teach myself much better than I learn from others. My mom didn’t call it visual kinesthetic, she just said I was obstinate.

Fixing It by the Book

When I first started to feel that I was having problems in my marriage my immediate reaction was to fix them. That’s what I do. It’s part of my character – if there’s a problem I will figure out a way to fix it, or die trying.

I would read a book, think about what I’d read, and then read it again. I’d take notes, pray about it, and process the information. I would then try to implement what I’d learned. Books said that you should be clear about what you wanted – so I was. They talked about mirroring what you spouse had said to make sure there were no communication glitches – I got good as saying, I heard you say xyz, is that what you said?

The author’s issues were always resolved by the last page of the book but in my life it just wasn’t that way. No matter what I did, no matter how closely I followed the counsel in the book my ex’s responses were just not what they were supposed to be. I can remember reading one book for the fourth time and wondering what was wrong with me. I couldn’t get a proven technique to work no matter how hard I tried.

You Can’t Fix Him

The problem wasn’t me. That IS the real frustration of being married to a narcissist. I was quite willing to do whatever I needed to do to save my marriage. Here’s the thing. Trying to fix problems in a relationship with a narcissist is like trying to swim to shore tied to someone in a motor boat going in the opposite direction. You can’t apply normal techniques to a relationship with someone that doesn’t respond normally. A normal person, who wants to work on a relationship will compromise in some way. You’ll find ways to overcome differences, create new goals, new ways of doing things, and work through emotions.

When someone in the relationship is a narcissist things don’t work that way. You go to counseling and the narcissist says whatever he thinks the counselor will buy. He’ll agree to whatever treatment plan the counselor suggests. He will look like the most compliant patient ever.

He’ll agree until you get home.

At that point nothing will change. If the counselor tells you to go home and talk about your fears the narcissist will agree and then go home and turn on the television or get on the computer. When you ask about the assignment he’ll shrug. Well, unless the assignment was something that benefitted him. If that’s the case then you’d better do it because he’ll cry when he tells the counselor that you didn’t care enough to do the assignment at your next appointment.

It’s Apples and Road Apples

You know what road apples are? Where I come from it’s a nice euphemism for horse manure. It may have a few of the same letters, and may even sound similar, but don’t try to make a pie with them. You know what I mean?

The hardest thing about trying to work out problems in a relationship with a narcissist is that people don’t understand that you are not dealing with normal. It’s comparing apples and road apples.

We got one of our dogs in a rather extreme way. He was a stray and had been hit by a car or thrown from one. He had severe head injuries, swelling of the brain, and I figured he was going to die. It was late so I brought him inside and made him comfortable in a box. Needless to say he lived but he was very brain damaged. It took him three years to learn to bark again.

It was a great three years.

Anyway, house breaking was a nightmare. I’ve worked with animals all my life and I can’t tell you how many dogs I have housebroken but nothing worked with this little guy. It didn’t work because he wasn’t normal. I did eventually get him trained but it took five years. He wasn’t able learn or change his behavior in the same way other dogs did. He looked relatively normal but he wasn’t.

Trying to work out a problem with a narcissist it similar. The responses are not average because the narcissist isn’t normal!

Focus on yourself. Enjoy a hobby, take a class, and let the lies and deception fly away. Image Courtesy of Flickr's Creative Commons, User: nandadevieast

It’s Not You

If you are wondering why things aren’t working, if you are wondering what you are doing wrong, or what you could be doing differently you need to realize that the answer isn’t with you. You can’t fix it because you can only create change in yourself.

And that’s the answer, right there.

You can’t fix your marriage. You can only do what you need to do to make yourself happy, to follow your own ethics, and to keep yourself and your children safe and emotionally healthy. For some of you it will mean freeing yourself to pursue your own interests, take classes, or follow a dream. For others it will mean separation or even divorce.

When a narcissist isn’t getting his fix he reinvents himself and finds another family – just like that. He may cry big alligator tears if he thinks it will get someone on his side but it’s drama.

Be Confident and Focus on Reality

The hardest part is finding a place where you are confident in who you are. Every time I hear about something he has said about me I have to fight going into an emotional tailspin. Am I really that way? Is his perspective the correct one? Am I really that emotionally twisted?

Then reality seeps in. I did not cheat. I did not walk out. I did not move away from my kids. I am not the one trying to get out of my financial responsibility. Since the separation I have worked long hours to make sure that the kids had what they needed. When it became clear that finances were too tight my current husband, who was retired when we married, took a job at a much lower salary and position, to ensure the kids had insurance and their needs were covered.

Any way you want to look at it, any perception that you might have, it boils down to the fact that there is someone being responsible and someone shirking their responsibility and making excuses for their behavior. If the proof is in the action rather than in the words then there is no reason for me to doubt my own integrity.

In fact, if anyone looks at it logically and honesty the crazy maker should be as obvious as a flashing neon sign in a movie theater.

It’s time to believe in yourself, have confidence in who you are, and realize that you are, and never were, the problem. Join First Wives World today and talk to others who have been where you are and are on the other side of it.

Lead Image Courtesy of Flickr's Creative Commons, User: pedrosimoes7

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5 comments

  • Comment Link gemma Monday, 26 May 2014 22:54 posted by gemma

    Wow you are like my mirror image. I too learn the same way as you, would LOVE to be able to live as you have (homeschooling, self sufficiency etc).
    I also responded to my ex husband's craziness/ our relationship problems by reading/researching and trying to fix it. But that wouldn't work with him, he made no effort whatsoever, and blamed me for everything, as usual. I still miss the good times we had, even though I realise now that none of it was real, and he was just using me, which breaks my heart. For a long time I thought he was my best friend.

  • Comment Link Deborah Sunday, 20 April 2014 14:56 posted by Deborah

    I was married to a NPD for 28 years I wanted the divorce he with another woman very fast I am going crazy I keep it too myself. I don't know why I feel this way HELP

  • Comment Link marye Wednesday, 09 April 2014 16:39 posted by marye

    Naomi and Geo - The one thing you can depend on when it comes to a narcissist is that they are predictable! That's why sites like First Wives World are great - you get to see that you aren't alone, that others have dealt with the same thing, and that you have a support group. :)

  • Comment Link Naomi Wednesday, 09 April 2014 08:14 posted by Naomi

    Wow, you just described my life to a 'T'. I need a community that fully understands this. Most of my friends are still married, its really hard for me to make anyone understand how I feel.

  • Comment Link geoblewis Tuesday, 08 April 2014 23:19 posted by geoblewis

    It's like you were in my house, looking at my "library" of self-help, Oprah-endorsed fix-me/us books. And you were witness to my marriage as well.

    I remember one day, being so sick and tired of reading and applying what I read, over and over again, not getting anywhere (I think that's called CRAZY). I decided to pack up ALL the books and donate them to a local women's organization. They were thrilled to get them. I was thrilled to have reduced my load of books that were going to have to come with me when I was forced to moved out.

    I too did not cheat, or walk out, or leave my children. He too faked his way through therapy, cried alligator tears, bought himself a new wife and family two weeks after the divorce was final. And I still struggle with believing in myself. I have to remind myself that I am a very capable and intelligent woman, and that my own emotional sanctuary comes from within.

    It's been four years since the divorce was final and I've been free from the narcissist. Best four years of my adult life!